I was raised with everything I wanted. A lawyer dad married to an incredible woman, and a mom married to an optometrist who owned his own practice. If I wanted something, I asked for it and typically received it. I didn’t feel spoiled or overwhelmed, in fact I never really contemplated my stuff much at all. What I did know was that I liked having the things I wanted, I liked being comfortable, I liked life. So when I became a parent at the age of 19, I knew three things… 1) Don’t spank. 2) Be nice. 3) Buy things for your kids as much as possible. Fifteen years into this parenting gig and I still wholeheartedly believe the first two, but number three, well, that idea was retired.
My husband was raised completely differently, and yet, when we married, he had come to the same conclusions. He was the youngest of four children with a single mom. His family wasn’t close and they had no money, or at least, he never saw the fruit of any money. Never getting new shoes or Christmas presents, having electricity turned off in the middle of winter with snow on the ground, having to scrounge for his own food at the earliest age, he determined to have his own family one day and to give his children everything they wanted. He felt lack of care and attention, he didn’t know comfort, and he imagined that gifts and things would show a love and care that he never knew.
So we began our family and began to buy things as much as we possibly could. We accumulated. And as child after child came into our lives, it was like this invitation to accumulate more. Fortunately we discovered simplicity and minimalism around the time when we were feeling consumed and drowning. It was this obvious, eye opening thing; my husband felt anxious at home, my twins were having difficulty controlling themselves and communicating, and everywhere around us was stuff. There was nowhere to go to find peace, there was nowhere in our home to breathe. It was finally enough.
We went through and continue to go through the usual process, the piles of things, the sorting, the consideration of purpose and joy. Little by little, we are creating an atmosphere of peace. With nine people under one roof there is plenty of chaos, and the stuff was just adding to that. Slowly it is calming. Slowly we have found a new way.
My husband still gets feelings of guilt. He doesn’t want to deny the kids things, he doesn’t want them to feel as he did growing up. I am constantly reminding him 1) You are not keeping things they need from them, merely limiting the excess, the unnecessary. 2) You are an amazing, loving, attentive parent. You were not only denied material items as a child, you felt a lack of love and care too. You are giving them the most important thing.
He’s not alone in feeling the guilt. Society teaches us that giving things to people shows them you care and that getting things from people shows you that you are cared for. When we remove that aspect of relationship, we have to take a step back and start over. We have to find other ways to show care, and we have to remind ourselves that a listening ear from someone shows us they care for us.
Creating a simple life for our families does not mean lack, in fact it’s the exact opposite, it means an abundance, but an abundance of what really matters; love, peace, consideration, time, room to think, freedom to grow, a place and relationships where you can simply be.
Stick around at the Simple Little Life blog, follow me on Instagram @simplelittleamy, and I hope to inspire you in your journey towards a simple life for your family.